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Research shows Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans experienced the largest increases in mental health issues during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, members of these communities were less likely to receive mental health care than white people. There are several unique barriers to care that often make receiving quality behavioral health treatment more difficult for people of color.

Here are some common disparities people diverse racial and ethnic communities experience when accessing mental health services:

The cost of care

Access and coverage for mental health treatment can be a barrier to seeking help. Even with commercial insurance, copays and deductibles can discourage people from seeking treatment. Black and Hispanic individuals are also more likely to be uninsured or have poorer quality insurance than white people. Access to more affordable care options could engage these individuals in their care. Expansion of mental health coverage and treatment options like mobile health and telehealth could encourage more people to seek help.


Stigma is a serious problem in mental health across the board, especially for people of color. For example, a study found 63% of Black people believe mental health conditions are a sign of personal weakness. Because of this, many Black individuals who are struggling decide to go it alone out of fear of judgement. This deep, negative view of mental health can result in hesitancy to receive care. Understanding these persistent views of mental health conditions and treatment is key to providing effective education on the value of treatment.

Culturally competent care

Unfortunately, some behavioral health providers view treatment options through a narrow cultural lens. A lack of diversity in the care setting can exacerbate the issue, making it difficult for patients to feel a connection to their provider. Mental health providers must consider different perspectives, cultures and languages. A lack of health care materials in the patient’s native language combined with an absence of specialists who understand their culture can cause individuals to feel unwelcome and misunderstood.

Lack of access to quality care

Many communities of color are in high poverty areas where access to mental health resources is limited. One step towards addressing this disparity is integrating behavioral health with primary care. In communities where it is difficult to find a quality mental health provider, a primary care provider with knowledge of mental health symptoms could spot the warning signs of a crisis early and intervene.

While mental health conditions don’t discriminate, mental health treatment can. Oceans is committed to bridging gaps in quality care for underserved communities and raising awareness of the importance of getting help. For more information, find an Oceans location near you or fill out this confidential form to have a staff member call you.

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